[A] federal appeals court on Friday overturned President Obama’s controversial recess appointments from last year, ruling he abused his powers and acted when the Senate was not actually in a recess.
The three-judge panel’s ruling is a major blow to Mr. Obama. The judges ruled that the appointments he made to the National Labor Relations Board are illegal, and hence the five-person board did not have a quorum to operate.
But the ruling has even broader constitutional significance, with the judges arguing that the president’s recess appointment powers don’t apply to “intra-session” appointments — those made when Congress has left town for a few days or weeks. They said Mr. Obama erred when he said he could claim the power to determine when he could make appointments.
“Allowing the president to define the scope of his own appointments power would eviscerate the Constitution’s separation of powers,” the judges said in their opinion.
[T]he court had returned to the Constitution’s intent, which was to make the recess appointment an emergency power for use only when Congress was not available.
[I]t’s not about protecting the Congress from the president and the president from Congress …. The Constitution draws these lines ultimately to limit the government to protect the people.
In their ruling the judges said their duty is not to speed up the workings of government, but to hold to constitutional principles. “If some administrative inefficiency results from our construction of the original meaning of the Constitution, that does not empower us to change what the Constitution commands,” the judges wrote. [more]